A poll released Monday by WPRI-TV, Channel 12, shows Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo and one of the Republicans seeking to challenge her, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, in a statistical dead heat.
In a hypothetical five-candidate matchup with five candidates, Raimondo got 38.2% of the support, compared with 35.6% for Fung, 6.2% for independent Joe Trillo, 2.1% for Moderate William Gilbert, and 0 percent for independent Luis Munoz. The findings are based on interviews with 419 registered voters.
In a different matchup -- with House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan as the Republican candidate, Raimondo got 43.2% of the vote, compared with 24.8% for Morgan, 8.6% for Trillo, 1.7% for Gilbert, and 1.0% for Munoz.
The poll did not test a matchup with a third Republican candidate, businessman Giovanni Feroce, who formally organized his campaign in late February.
Fung, Morgan and Feroce will square off in a primary in September. The general election will be held in November.
In a statement, Fung said, "Although we may not agree with the methodology of this poll, the results confirm that the governor is extremely vulnerable with a very low approval rating. The voters know that we can do better than Governor Raimondo's managerial incompetence and questionable ethical behavior. It is clear that this is a two-person race and the voters want fundamental change in the direction of Rhode Island."
In a statement, Raimondo's deputy campaign manager, David Ortiz, touted Raimondo's efforts as governor.
"After years of economic stagnation, we're finally making real progress to create jobs and put Rhode Islanders back to work," Ortiz said. "We’ve slashed our unemployment rate, our economy has more jobs than at nearly any other time in our state’s history, and we’re making record investments in education and job training. But this kind of recovery doesn’t happen overnight, and not everyone is feeling it yet. We need to keep going, until every Rhode Islander is included in our state’s comeback."
Ahead of the release of the poll, the Democratic Governors Association criticized Fung's campaign for not answering more policy-based questions from various news organizations.
“Fung’s preposterous refusal to let voters know where he stands makes Rhode Islanders wonder what he’s hiding and should disqualify his candidacy,” DGA Communications Director Jared Leopold said in a statement. “Voters need to know where the candidates running to lead their state stand on important issues, and Fung’s hiding shows he does not take seriously the responsibilities of an elected leader.”
After the poll was released, the Republican Governors Association cited it as a sign that Raimondo faces a difficult path to re-election. "Voters are making it clear that they have had enough of her failed leadership," the RGA said.
Raimondo has not attracted any well-known Democratic challengers, although former Rep. Spencer Dickinson and enviromentalist Paul Roselli have announced campaigns.
The finding by WPRI pollster Joseph Fleming shows that Raimondo and Fung have nearly identical favorability ratings, both around 50%. Yet Raimondo's job approval rating was 36.7%.
“I think the governor’s race is very fluid at this time,” Fleming told Channel 12. “The governor’s numbers are not as high as she hoped they would be. But they have the resources to try and move that needle.”
Raimondo has a huge cash advantage heading into the more active phase of the campaign, with more than 14 times as much money on hand as Fung, her closest rival in fundraising.
WPRI conducted the poll with Roger Williams University. The poll has an overall margin of error of 4.8 percentage points.
Asked whether the state is going in the right direction, 44.6% of respondents said Rhode Island is going in the wrong direction, 38.9% said the state is headed in the right direction, 11.2% said things are the same, and 5.3% were unsure.
This post has been updated.